Can you remember the last time you saw a dark night sky, full of stars and planets, in vivid detail? For many of us living in the world’s cities, the answer may be “no” or “never.” When we think of pollution, we don’t often think of the lights that line our streets and illuminate our buildings. This week is International Dark Sky Week, so let’s dive into some related questions: what is light pollution, what are its effects, and how can we manage it?
Light pollution is “light from cities, vehicles, etc., that makes it difficult to see things in the sky (such as stars) at night.”[i] Too much nighttime light can disrupt bird migrations and sea turtle hatchings, cause glare and accidents for motorists and pedestrians, and disrupt the circadian rhythms that regulate our sleep cycles and produce hormones that protect us from disease. Research suggests that artificial light at night can negatively affect human health, increasing risks for obesity, depression, sleep disorders, diabetes, breast cancer and more.[ii] From a sustainability perspective, excessive or unshielded lights waste both energy and money.
Image credit: I.D.A.[iii]
The good news about light pollution, in contrast to many other forms of pollution, is that it is immediately reversible. With smart lighting design and turning off unnecessary lights, we can darken our skies and return to a vista full of stars. Here are some tips on reducing light pollution from the International Dark Sky Association:
To minimize the harmful effects of light pollution, lighting should
· Only be on when needed
· Only light the area that needs it
· Be no brighter than necessary
· Minimize blue light emissions
· Be fully shielded (pointing downward)[iv]
Metro’s Historic Courthouse Dark for Earth Hour 2018
Here at the Department of General Services, we do our part to reduce light pollution and eliminate wasted energy. The Department manages nearly 100 city buildings. In each, we strive to ensure that building lighting follows an occupancy schedule and that only necessary lights are on at any given time. Our 21 LEED® certified buildings have automated lighting systems that ensure lights turn on and off at set times. Most of the Department’s buildings are not occupied at night, which means their non-essential lights are turned off to reduce light pollution and save energy.
By being aware of light pollution and the simple, commonsense actions we can all take to reduce it, together we can begin to reclaim Nashville’s night sky.
Join Socket at the annual Nashville Cherry Blossom Festival on April 14th in Public Square Park. Learn more at http://www.nashvillecherryblossomfestival.org/.
Whether you celebrated Punxsutawney Phil’s findings this year or not, it is likely that Nashville will face a bit more freezing weather. In preparation, the Department of General Services Division of Sustainability wishes to remind employees and residents about best practices for de-icing (the process of removing snow and/or ice from a surface). Safety is the most important consideration for de-icing and snow clearing efforts, but it is important to remember that de-icing materials impact more than the snow or ice they melt. How and when we use these materials is essential to the health of our environment.
The most effective de-icing agents have chemical formulas containing chloride and acetate. Salt (NaCl) is the most common. But others, such as magnesium chloride (MgCl2) and potassium acetate (CH3CO2K) are common examples too. Unfortunately, these extraordinary “melters” have negative effects on the environment. Some of these negative effects include preventing plants from absorbing moisture, leaching heavy metals, and creating algae blooms. Although researchers continue to pursue a completely safe alternative to those formulas containing chloride and acetate, none yet exists. Brands that advertise eco-friendly products often still contain large proportions of chloride or acetate; or, these brands are not effective at temperatures below freezing!
So what CAN you do?
1. Wear Proper Shoes
Boots with a solid toe and bottom tread will help increase your grip on icy surfaces.
2. Shovel First
Shovel snow early and often; then decide whether to use a de-icing agent. If you must use a de-icer, your shoveling will not have been in vain. De-icers work best on thin layers of precipitation.
3. Don’t Over-apply
Use just enough. A general rule is 2 lbs. of de-icer for every 500 sq. ft. One pound of de-icer is approximately one heaping 12 oz. coffee mug.
4. Place Carefully
Apply materials only where needed and keep de-icing materials away from plants and foliage.
5. Clean up and Reuse
Sweep up left over salt and store it properly for reuse. This saves money and keeps unused product from washing into streams and rivers, where it can negatively impact the aquatic ecosystem.
Material for this blog was compiled from the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies’ 2010 report, Road Salt: Moving Toward the Solution. Follow the link to the report below for further reading: http://www.caryinstitute.org/sites/default/files/public/reprints/report_road_salt_2010.pdf
Blog author, Mr. Jake Rachels, is an intern with the Division of Sustainability.
“By being creative with food waste, utilizing compostable materials, and developing a composting/recycling program a restaurant can save considerable dollars over the long run... I definitely see a future in which Nashville leads the way for citywide composting and the restaurant community will be driving the charge.” – Jeremy Barlow, Owner of SLOCO restaurant
2017 was a doggone good year for Socket! Read about new achievements and annual highlights of the Department of General Services' Division of Sustainability.
Fall is finally here! But what do you do with all the brightly-colored autumn leaves and summer growth now faded?
Fall leaves can cause damage to lawns and storm water drains if not properly mulched, composted or disposed of. Blowing or raking leaves into the street causes problems for you, your neighbors and the city if storm water drains get clogged and cannot adequately drain rain water. Make sure to rake up and clear the area around ditches and storm drains. If you have a neighborhood association, remind your neighbors to keep the area around the neighborhood drains clear of debris and trash. Whatever goes into storm water drains goes directly into our city’s streams and rivers.
Storm water drains clogged with Fall leaves and other trash can cause flooding and other road hazards.
Fallen leaves, what professionals call “leaf litter,” accumulate under trees can suffocate grass and other plantings. Here are four easy options to properly dispose of your fallen splendor. All you need is a rake or electric blower, a battery-powered lawnmower, biodegradable paper lawn and leaf bags, and a few helping hands.
1) Once the fun of jumping in leaf piles is over, you can use your electric lawnmower to shred leaves into mulch size pieces that then can be spread over flowerbeds to provide nutrients all winter.
2) Another option is to collect the mulched leaves and add them to your compost. Add fresh cut grass or a compost activator to get the compost pile cooking! For more information on composting go to the Metro Public Works site. If you don’t have a composter (or want to start your holiday shopping early), you can purchase one at the Omohundro Convenience Center.
3) Residents in Metro Nashville’s Urban and General Services Districts can have their brush and yard waste collected at no charge. For Fall and Winter pick-up dates see the 2017-2018 schedule. All leaves must be bagged in biodegradable paper bags for collection. You can purchase biodegradable paper lawn and leaf bags at your local grocery or hardware store. Metro will not pick up yard waste in plastic bags. Remember that you can always take your bagged leaves to one of Metro Nashville’s drop off sites.
4) If you want to give back to your community, non-profits like The Nashville Food Project (TNFP) would love to use your bagged leaves to feed their gardens. TNFP invites residents to drop off bagged leaves and pine needles at their Wedgwood Urban Garden. For more specific information go to https://www.thenashvillefoodproject.org/contact/ or call 615-460-0172.
Please protect our waterways and your property by properly disposing of leaves. Most importantly, have fun. Happy Fall, from Socket!
Nothing empowers a team more than explaining the benefits of all their hard work. So when General Services Director Nancy Whittemore started implementing new procedures for the department – share mini-refrigerators, use the recycling bins, even eliminate unessential small appliances (e.g., coffee warmers) – she was sure to add the ever-necessary “Why?”
Part of the reason for the sustainability efforts within General Services came down from the city of Nashville.
“The [city] council passed legislation that all new buildings and rehabilitated buildings over $500,000 had to be LEED silver,” Whittemore explained.
Then, when General Services was challenged with the construction and design end of building operations, they were in the position to green the entire process.
This, plus the creation of the 2009 Green Ribbon Report at the time, made sustainability a driving force for the department. Soon after, General Services started using sustainable resources for its building construction. Bamboo, a renewable resource that regrows much faster than traditional hardwoods, was used for floors instead of tree-based wood. Recycled milk cartons were used for dividers in restrooms.
And many buildings had automatic light sensors installed so energy wouldn’t be used when no one was in the room. But when employees didn't understand why these new procedures would benefit them, Whittemore and her team had to come up with a plan.
And Socket was born.
"We believe if people understand what we’re trying to do then people will start doing the right thing," said Whittemore.
A source to disseminate the information behind these green decisions was essential. Whittemore met with Ameresco Inc., an independent provider of comprehensive energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions for facilities. Their meeting led to an “A-ha” moment, according to Whittemore. “We love trying to figure out how you strategize to get people to buy in,” she said.
Their previous efforts – email correspondence, an updated website – didn’t turn on the city’s employees. With the Socket program, employees can understand why it’s important General Services continues to do what it does in the name of sustainability. “We’ve gone from being like the facility police to engaging our community of customers,” said Whittemore.
Socket is the outreach program of General Services and is now housed within the new Sustainability Division. Socket provides a platform for the department to convey its sustainability message with the use of Socket the mascot, the website, blog, newsletter, digital kiosks and other hi-tech touches.
“If people don’t know, we can’t expect them to understand it,” said Whittemore.
Through the Socket program, employees and Nashville visitors alike can learn about the city’s LEED facilities and how to live and work in more sustainable ways.
“This is an opportunity for us to tell our story,” said Whittemore. “We can showcase not only what General Services is doing but the mayor as well. There is so much going on in this city.”
Several buildings under General Services’ charge also have electric car power stations and bike racks to promote cleaner transportation options.